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USDA Deputy Secretary Merrigan Announces Protection of Nearly 150 Acres of Prime Rhode Island Farmland

USDA Secretary Merrigan Announces Protection of Nearly 150 Acres of Prime Rhode Island Farmland

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                CONTACT: Walter Marshall
                                                                                                                      Public Affairs Specialist

Aerial View of Ferolbink FarmWARWICK, RI (September 10, 2010) ï¿œUSDA Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan today announced a conservation easement that will protect from development nearly 150 acres of prime Eastern Rhode Island farmland.

"USDA is focused on keeping working lands working and ensuring special places like Ferolbink Farm are conserved for the benefit of present and future generations," Merrigan said at an event held on the farm. "This property is spectacular not only because of its great agricultural value, but also because of its importance to the local economy and value as habitat for many species of migratory birds, waterfowl, and fish."

U.S. Senator Jack Reed joined with Merrigan, leaders from the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management, The Nature Conservancy, the Tiverton Land Trust, the Peckham family, and members of the Tiverton community to celebrate preservation of one of the State's most iconic coastal farms.

During the 25-year period from 1982 to 2007, over 23 million acres of active U.S. farmland were lost to development--along with the products and amenities they provide, such as food and fuel, clean air and abundant water, healthy soils and wildlife habitat.

Located on the shores of the Sakonnet River and Fogland Marsh, the conservation easement protects some of the richest agricultural soils in the state. Jason "Pete" Peckham, owner of Ferolbink Farms, has farmed the land all his life and his family has owned the farm at least as far back as the 1920s. Named after Peckham's mother, whose first name was "Ferol", and his father, whose nickname was "Bink," Ferolbink Farm is one of six potato farms in Rhode Island and is also one of the largest growers of Squash in the State. Peckham markets Ferolbink Farm crops directly to independent supermarkets through a cooperative of East Bay area farmers. He also sells crops to local schools and farmers markets.

The farm has some of the richest soil in the State due to its carbon-rich attributes and water holding capacity. Other ecological attributes include its salt marshes and habitat for migratory birds, waterfowl, and fish.

NRCS' funding is provided through theFarm and Ranch Lands Protection Program (FRPP). FRPP created as part of the 1996 Farm Bill, provides matching funds to help purchase development rights to keep productive farm and ranchland in agricultural uses. USDA partners with State, Tribal and local governments and non-governmental organizations to acquire conservation easements from landowners. NRCS provides up to 50 percent of the fair market easement value of the conservation easement.

Over the years, Ferolbink Farm has been under considerable developmental pressures, particularly when property values were booming. NRCS worked closely with the Peckham family, the Tiverton Land Trust and The Nature Conservancy to assess options and develop a plan to protect the land. Funding for the purchase came from various conservation organizations including: NRCS ($1,900,000); RI Department of Environmental Management ($1,116,500); Little Compton Agricultural Conservancy Trust ($80,000), The Nature Conservancy and Champlin Foundations ($773,500); and the Tiverton Land Trust ($110,000). More than 100 private donors also contributed to the land preservation deal.

2010 represents the 75th year of NRCS "helping people help the land." Since its inception in 1935, the NRCS conservation delivery system has advanced a unique partnership with State and local governments and private landowners delivering conservation based on specific, local conservation needs, while accommodating State and national interests. For more information about NRCS conservation programs online, visit: or visit the Warwick RI Service Center at 60 Quaker Lane, Warwick, RI.